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The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game. Depending on the variation of The Game, the whole world, or all those aware of the game, are playing it all the time. Tactics have been developed to increase the number of people aware of The Game and thereby increase the number of losses.

The Game
I lost the game.jpg
A player announces her loss of The Game at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2008.
Years active Unknown (see origins)
Playing time Indefinite (ongoing)
Random chance Partially
Skill(s) required Thought suppression, strategy[specify]

Though the origins of The Game are unknown, a game featuring ironic processing was played by Leo Tolstoy in 1840.



There are three commonly reported rules to The Game:[1][2][3][4]

  1. Everyone in the world is playing The Game. (Sometimes narrowed to: "Everybody in the world who knows about The Game is playing The Game", or alternatively, "You are always playing The Game.") A person cannot choose to not play The Game; it does not require consent to play and one can never stop playing.
  2. Whenever one thinks about The Game, one loses.
  3. Losses must be announced. This can be verbally, with a phrase such as "I just lost The Game", or in any other way: for example, via Facebook. Some people may have signals or expressions that remind others of The Game.

What constitutes thinking about The Game is not always clear. If one discusses The Game without explicitly realizing that they have lost, this may or may not constitute a loss. If someone says "What is The Game?" before understanding the rules, whether they have lost is up for interpretation. According to some interpretations, one does not lose when someone else announces their loss, although the second rule implies that one loses regardless of what made them think about The Game. After a player has announced a loss, or after one thinks of The Game, some variants allow for a grace period between three seconds to thirty minutes to forget about the game, during which the player cannot lose the game again.[5][6]

A common strategy is to leave hidden notes to make others lose The Game.

The common rules do not define a point at which The Game ends. However, some players state that The Game ends when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announces on television that "The Game is up."[3]

Most variations of The Game do not allow for a person to win. One interpretation is that one is winning the game whenever they are not thinking about it. Another is that one has won when they have completely forgotten about The Game.[7] Another common interpretation is to have a temporary state of winning when in the presence of someone losing the game, the state of winningness ends when the 30min grace period expires.


Strategies focus on making others lose The Game. Common methods include saying "The Game" out loud or writing about The Game on a hidden note, in graffiti in public places, or on banknotes.[2]

[8] Associations may be made with The Game, especially over time, so that one thing inadvertently causes one to lose. Some players enjoy thinking of elaborate pranks that will cause others to lose the game.[9]

Other strategies involve merchandise: T-shirts, buttons, mugs, posters and bumper stickers have been created to advertise The Game.[9] The Game is also spread via social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.[9]


The origins of The Game are uncertain. In a 2008 news article, Justine Wettschreck says The Game has probably been around since the early 1990s, and may have originated in Australia or England.[10] One theory is that it was invented in London in 1996 when two British engineers, Dennis Begley and Gavin McDowall, missed their last train and had to spend the night on the platform; they attempted to avoid thinking about their situation and whoever thought about it first lost.[6][8] Another theory also traces The Game to London in 1996, when it was created by Jamie Miller "to annoy people".[5] Journalist Mic Wright of The Next Web recalled playing The Game at school in the late 1990s.[11]

However, The Game may have been created in 1977 by members of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society when attempting to create a game that did not fit in with game theory. A blog post by Paul Taylor in August 2002 described The Game; Taylor claimed to have "found out about [the game] online about 6 months ago".[12] This is the earliest known reference on the internet.[5]

The Game is most commonly spread through the internet, such as via Facebook or Twitter, or by word of mouth.[9]


The Game is an example of ironic processing (also known as the "White Bear Principle"), in which attempts to avoid certain thoughts make those thoughts more persistent.[6] There are early examples of ironic processing: in 1840, Leo Tolstoy played the "white bear game" with his brother, where he would "stand in a corner and not think of the white bear".[13] Fyodor Dostoyevsky mentioned the same game in 1863 in the essay Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.[14]

One psychological study of The Game by Cory Antiel involved 12 participants; they were asked to record when and why they lost over four weeks. The study itself caused 57% of participants' losses; Antiel claimed the Zeigarnik effect contributed to this. The participants recorded vastly different numbers of losses; common reasons included "references to taking notes", "references to time" and "seeing or thinking about other people who also play The Game". Priming and sensitization played a large part in losses; no strong correlation with habituation was found.[7]


A girl holds up a sign reading "You Lose The Game".

The Game has been described as challenging and fun to play, and as pointless, childish and infuriating.[5][6] In some Internet forums, such as Something Awful and GameSpy, and several schools, including one in Ohio,[2][8] The Game has even been banned. The Game has been described as a game, a meme and a "mind virus".[15]

Newspapers, including Metro, Rutland Herald, The Canadian Press and De Pers, have contained articles about The Game; Wikinews has interviewed the owner of[16] Webcomics Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, xkcd and Real Life have featured sketches relating to The Game.[15][17][18] YouTube videos about The Game have attracted hundreds of thousands of views.[19][20] In 2008, the largest Facebook group relating to The Game had over 200,000 members.[2] The knowledge engine WolframAlpha answers the query "What is 'The Game'?" with the response "You just lost."[21]

Several celebrities know about The Game. Actor Simon Pegg has tweeted about The Game.[22] Alex Baker has talked about The Game on multiple occasions on Kerrang Radio and Facebook.[23]

Other attempts to increase losses of The Game have involved hoaxes and hacking. The 2009 Time 100 poll was most likely manipulated by the hacktivist group Anonymous, so that the top 21 people's names formed an acrostic for "marblecake also the game", referencing The Game.[24][25]

See also


  1. ^ Boyle, Andy (19 March 2007). "Mind game enlivens students across U.S." The Daily Nebraskan. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rooseboom, Sanne (15 December 2008). "Nederland gaat nu ook verliezen". De Pers. Archived from the original on 15 December 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Three rules of The Game". Metro. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2017-05-20. 
  4. ^ "Don't think about the game". Rutland Herald. 3 October 2007. (Subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ a b c d Montgomery, Shannon (17 January 2008). "Teens around the world are playing 'the game'". The Canadian Press. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kaniewski, Katie (1 March 2009). "You just lost the Game". Los Angeles Loyolan. Retrieved 27 March 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Cory Antiel The Game Study" (PDF). 19 December 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c "If you read this you've lost The Game". Metro. 3 December 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d Fussell, James (21 July 2009). "'The Game' is a fad that will get you every time". The Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Wettschreck, Justine (31 May 2008). "Playing 'The Game' with the other kids". Daily Globe. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  11. ^ Wright, Mic (April 13, 2015). "You just lost The Game: the enduring hold of the pre-Web world's Rickroll". The Next Web. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  12. ^ "The Game (I lost!)". 10 August 2002. Archived from the original on 14 June 2008. 
  13. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (2008). Leo Tolstoy, His Life and Work. p. 52. ISBN 1408676974. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (1863). Winter Notes on Summer Impressions. Vremya. p. 49. 
  15. ^ a b "Anti-Mindvirus". Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "Wikinews loses The Game". Wikinews. 7 June 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "SMBC 2227". 26 April 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "RealLife Comics". 24 September 2007. Archived from the original on 8 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "You just lost THE GAME!". YouTube. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  20. ^ "Demyx Time: Episode 4". YouTube. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  21. ^ Wilhelm, Alex (April 5, 2010). "WolframAlpha Now Scares Me – I Lost The Game". The Next Web. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Simon Pegg". Twitter. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2014. Stop talking about the game you fucking douchebags! I just lost again. Thanks a bunch! ;-) 
  23. ^ "Facebook - deadmau5". 10 October 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2014. also, the game. 
  24. ^ Schonfeld, Erick (27 April 2009). "Time Magazine Throws Up Its Hands As It Gets Pwned By 4Chan". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  25. ^ "Marble Cake and moot". ABC News. 30 April 2009. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 

External links